Illustrations by Francis Vallejo
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: March 8, 2016
In 1958, a photo was planned with Esquire magazine to pay tribute to the American jazz scene that was all over Harlem. They were all there, beloved jazz musicians and the kids who looked up to them. Art Kane, the photographer, had sent out word but had no idea if anyone would show up for the photo shoot. Told with poetry, this is the story of how one famous photograph came together.
I thought this book was beautiful and inspired, with some wonderful perspectives that allow the reader to learn about jazz and the people behind the music. Who showed up? Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk to name a few. Fifty-seven in total. Vallejo illustrates all of this so deftly too, making the various jazz greats come to life in a way that never felt like a caricature.
My biggest question is who the audience is for this book though. Poetic non-fiction already has a very narrow audience, but make it a wordy picture book and it gets narrower. Sadly, I think that this book really isn't for kids. It is for the gatekeepers, librarians and teachers who will love it and put it on their shelves for learning purposes, but I don't see kids picking this up on their own.